I have great days at work. Days that would warm your heart, touch your soul and give you hope. Days that remind you why we choose to get into this emotionally demanding and, at times, difficult career. Today, I had such a day and I wanted to share it with you.
As an Employment Training and Support Worker in a greenhouse setting, my job is to teach people with developmental disabilities the essential skills and behaviours of working in a normalized environment, obtaining employment and staying employed. I teach them work ethics, workplace safety, problem solving, respecting authority and personal hygiene. In addition, I train them in effective communication skills, including my favourite skill, conflict resolution, where I coach them to use “I” statements and to place themselves in other people’s shoes.
I work with two women who don’t particularly get along. Their personalities are just like the mix of oil and water or fire and ice. Diane doesn’t like Leah’s being bossy and she dislikes even more her talking to her boyfriend. Leah, on the other hand, dislikes Diane’s evil eye and the mean and upset looks she receives from her. We all have that person who rubs us the wrong way. Leah and Diane’s relationship is like two sheets of rough grade sandpaper rubbing against one another.
Today, I realized that my hard work, teaching my favourite skill of conflict resolution, is paying off. I witnessed that Leah and Diane are getting passed their animosity. It has been a long process, but they are clearly forging a friendship.
One of the weekly tasks of working in the greenhouse is to walk behind the structure and throw the unusable bamboo stems in the compost. It’s a physically demanding task which entails walking a distance with a large load. Therefore, I make sure that the workers have fun doing it by creating a challenge for whoever can throw the stems the farthest. It generates a lot of excitement. Diane always bellows the most enchanting “weeeeeeeeeeeee” while eagerly swinging the stems onto the pile.
Today, as Leah and Diane were piling up the compost, I stood back to observe the progress in their communication skills… and relationship. I was amazed at their carrying on the most loving, animated and caring conversation. They talked about the weather, family, friends, what made them happy and what was generally going on in their lives.
It brought tears to my eyes. I had to take a few pictures of them laughing and enjoying life and each other. A real Kodak moment.
When I’m out and about in the community, I’ve witnessed that the interaction and communication between our participants is much more than those among participants from other societies. Our folks don’t only speak with staff; they really TALK and LISTEN to each other. As Support Workers, we don’t always appreciate the big part we play in this phenomenon and we should be proud of our achievements. When witnessing positive interaction, we should pay attention and encourage the behaviour to take place even more. The results make our work worthwhile and rewarding.
Thank you Semiahmoo House Society for my job, Kwantlen College for my schooling and, most of all, the people I work with who teach me the most about love and life!
This blog was published with the permission of Leah and Diane.
By Crystal Dixon, Semiahmoo House Society
Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community.
The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.